Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
Our reading from 1 John 4:16-21 is a corrective about our general inclinations when we think about love. After all, we think, we all know what love is. Right? All you need is love. And if you hang something on your wall about love being a deep feeling of affection for those who are special to you, you must not be too far off, right? Live, love, laugh, and all that?
What is God’s love for us. His love is the kind of love that finds us when we were still sinners. It is the kind of love that makes us able to live in God’s presence. It is the kind of love that takes away all fear because it has negated punishment. Oh, yes, there’s still punishment but it is for those who are not in Christ. In Christ, there is no fear of anything.
Is true love something we do? Not at all. We love because he first loved us. We would have no capacity for genuine love except that God has initiated it in us. And we have an inkling that the love of God is working in us because we develop the kind of care God has shown us for others in our lives. We love our brother, who we have seen, and it is a sign of love for God who we have not seen.
Does that mean that we also engage in no judgment, that everything anyone else would do is all right? On one level, we leave judgment up to God. However, he has given us a lot of clear statements in Scripture about what is acceptable and unacceptable in his sight. We love our neighbor enough to help him see when he is in danger of God’s judgment. While we ourselves aren’t hostile about it, the ideas may well be perceived as hostile and result in retaliation by those who are in danger of God’s judgment and react in fear, seeking to avoid punishment by punishing us. That’s a very real possibility, which happens to countless people every day.
Yet our attitude remains the same. As we are secure in Christ’s love for us, we are free to love our neighbor. And our love for our neighbor might just help that neighbor see God’s love for him in Christ.
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